Editorial: St Hilda's – the aftermath
At a glance, the Jade Bascoe affaire at St Hilda's Diocesan High School came to a satisfactory conclusion. The 16-year-old student, whose constitutional rights were horribly abridged in an act of religious bigotry, has been reinstated to the position of Head Girl.
That, however, would be a superficial reading of the outcome. For not only in the school's principal, Heather Reid Johnson, who is still on the job, Ms Bascoe was victimised for a second time, and another person, whose name is, happily, not widely known outside the school community, was added to the list of casualties in this fiasco.
Earlier this month, and within a day of her appointment, Jade Bascoe was removed as head of the student government on the assumption that she was Jehovah's Witness, which she, as well as her mother, denied. The Anglican school action to be in keeping with policy and the move was endorsed by Robert Thompson, the Suffragan Bishop of Kingston, who said the principal's decision was supported by the school's board.
Ms Bascoe's religion, whatever it may be, shouldn't have mattered, especially in the context of her constitutional right to freedom of religion. What should have been important is the capacity and willingness to perform her duties as head Girl, as was argued by the Public Defender, providing the basis for her reinstatement.
share the blame
Unfortunately, the St Hilda's board, having been cornered into doing the right thing, has subtly attempted to have Jade Bascoe, and presumably her mother, Rhonda Clarke, share the blame for what was solely the fault of the school's management. They claimed that there was "a series of miscommunication and misunderstandings by all parties". Balderdash!
All the available evidence indicated that Ms Bascoe, and her mother had made it clear to the principal, that the student, her tangential association with Jehovah Witness faith, notwithstanding, could, and would, perform her Head Girl duties. She was booted nevertheless.
But on her reinstatement, which happened in the face of public pressure, the St Hilda's board behaves as if a commitment to her job had to be wrestled out of Ms Bascoe, or that she was not being strong-armed into something she did not wish to do. They said: "The board is satisfied that, by Jade Bascoe's own affirmation in the presence of her mother, she is prepared to fulfil the duties of a Head Girl as prescribed in the school's Handbook."
So, she again is made the fall guy.
Then there is the other victim. In a seeming indecent haste to be rid of Jade Bascoe, Principal Reid Johnson created and attempted to create a fait accompli by declaring her intention to promote the Deputy Head Girl to Jade Bascoe's position, even after a request by the Public Defender that the position not be filled. Such a move by the principal would obviously have placed this student in an invidious position, open to embarrassment and ridicule, if, as has now happened, Jade Bascoe was reinstated.
In other words, that child would have to be stripped of her post. The good thing, her name has not been in the wider public domain.
Principal Reid Johnson would hardly have gone on such a bigoted folly entirely on her own. Even without the explicit imprimatur of the board, there would have been a sense of permissiveness against Jehovah's Witnesses that allowed this type of behaviour.